Inter-species Metabolic Interactions in an In-vitro Minimal Human Gut Microbiome of Core Bacteria

Sudarshan A. Shetty, Ben Kuipers, Siavash Atashgahi, Steven Aalvink, Hauke Smidt, Willem M. de Vos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge of the functional roles and interspecies interactions are crucial for improving our understanding of the human intestinal microbiome in health and disease. However, the complexity of the human intestinal microbiome and technical challenges in investigating it pose major challenges. In this proof-of-concept study, we rationally designed, assembled and experimentally tested a synthetic Diet-based Minimal Microbiome (Db-MM) consisting of ten core intestinal bacterial species that together are capable of efficiently converting dietary fibres into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Despite their genomic potential for metabolic competition, all ten bacteria coexisted during growth on a mixture of dietary fibres, including pectin, inulin, xylan, cellobiose and starch. By integrated analyses of metabolite production, community composition and metatranscriptomics-based gene expression data, we identified interspecies metabolic interactions leading to production of key SCFAs such as butyrate and propionate. While public goods, such as sugars liberated from colonic fibres, are harvested by non-degraders, some species thrive by cross-feeding on energetically challenging substrates, including the butyrogenic conversion of acetate and lactate. Using a reductionist approach in an in-vitro system combined with functional measurements, our study provides key insights into the complex interspecies metabolic interactions between core intestinal bacterial species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2022


  • PRJEB36253
  • ERP119416


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